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College Football Countdown: No. 60 Vanderbilt

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 60: Vanderbilt

Analysis compiled by Rachel George

Coach: James Franklin (6-7, 2nd season)

2011 record: 6-7 (2-6 in SEC, T-8th in SEC)

Look back: Vanderbilt made only its fifth bowl appearance after starting the season 3-0 and finishing with a 6-6 regular-season mark. Among those losses were four within a touchdown, including a three-point loss to Arkansas after Vanderbilt missed a field goal in the final seconds.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 2/9

Defensive starters lost/returning: 4/7

Key losses: Linebacker Chris Marve was the Commodores’ leading tackler last season, ranking 12th in the conference. Cornerback Casey Hayward led the conference in passes defended, as well.

Top returnees: Running back Zac Stacy ranked third in the conference in rushing and the Commodores return quarterback Jordan Rodgers.

Strengths: Vanderbilt returns seven starters from a defense that ranked fourth against the run and was second in the conference in interceptions. On offense, the Commodores’ run game is in good hands with Stacy and Rodgers.

Weaknesses: Vanderbilt ranked in the middle of the pack in most categories last year but was last in the SEC in field goal kicking. That remains a concern, along with filling holes at linebacker and developing depth on the offensive line.

Outlook: The Commodores suffered close losses to Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee in 2011. A year later, the Commodores return an experienced team that should be better from the struggles of last season. With some of their tougher games at home and a top-30 recruiting class coming in, the Commodores could see marked improvement in Franklin’s second season.

2012 Schedule
Aug. 30 vs. South Carolina
Sept. 8 at Northwestern
Sept. 15 vs. Presbyterian
Sept. 22 at Georgia
Oct. 6 at Missouri
Oct. 13 vs. Florida
Oct. 20 vs. Auburn
Oct. 27 vs. Massachusetts
Nov. 3 at Kentucky
Nov. 10 at Ole Miss
Nov. 17 vs. Tennessee
Nov. 24 at Wake Forest

Rest of the countdown:

No. 61 Connecticut

No. 62 Arizona State

No. 63 Wyoming

No. 64 Northern Illinois

No. 65 Utah State

No. 66 Louisiana-Lafayette

No. 67 Marshall

No. 68 Western Michigan

No. 69 Louisiana Tech

No. 70 Kentucky

No. 71 Air Force

No. 72 Western Kentucky

No. 73 UCLA

No. 74 Toledo

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